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Employment Law: Legal Process For A Discrimination Complaint

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Employment Law: Legal Process for a Discrimination Complaint

The purpose of this assignment is two-fold: (1) analyze a scenario in which an employee wishes to file a discrimination complaint against his/her private sector organization and (2) explain the civil litigation process for such a claim. "Litigation refers to the process by which cases are brought and prosecuted in the court system" (Legal Advice for Free, 2005a). In the case of a discrimination suit, the civil litigation process begins with filing the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and, if necessary, proceeds from the state level up to the United States Supreme Court.

Analyzing the Scenario

Scenario: "John is an employee in a private sector organization [and he] wants to file a discrimination complaint against his employer" (University of Phoenix rEsources, 2005, Week 1). After reviewing this scenario, it was discovered that no details were provided as to the context of John's discrimination complaint excluding the following three facts: (1) John, by name, represents a male subject, (2) he is employed by a private sector organization, and (3) this discrimination complaint is directed toward his employer. The private sector refers to "that segment of the workforce represented by private companies, companies that are not owned or managed by the government or one of its agencies" (Bennett-Alexander, & Hartman, 2003, p. 774). A discrimination complaint, if valid, consists of a factual and evidential claim (or claims) of illegal treatment or activity on the basis of an individual's or group of individuals' "race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, [or] age.

In the context of employment, discriminatory practices include bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, compensation, and various types of harassment" (Legal Advice for Free, 2005b). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees or perspective employees from unlawful discriminatory behavior by employers. The laws within this act were strengthened when President George Bush (the first) signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 which "allows judges to award compensatory and punitive damages when the plaintiff [(the person bringing the charge against the employer)] proves the discrimination was intentional or reckless" (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhert, Wright, 2005, p. 75). Upon further analysis of this scenario provided (and in order to fulfill the requirements of this assignment), it becomes necessary to assume that John's claim against his employer is valid and that the organization in question is structured in a manner which requires compliance with Title VII laws. The minimum requirements for compliance include: engaging in interstate commerce and employing 15 or more employees "for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year" (Bennett-Alexander et al., 2003, p. 86). The information to follow explains the seven-step civil litigation process for discrimination cases against employers.

* Step one: The plaintiff must file the complaint with the EEOC.

An employee of a private sector organization has 180 days from the date of the discriminatory incident to file a claim with the EEOC (EEOC, 2005). The EEOC often contracts state and local enforcement agencies called "706" agencies (named after section 706 of the Title VII act) to assist in filtering out invalid claims and facilitating, if possible, conciliation of valid claims (Bennett-Alexander, 2003, p. 89).

Conciliation means "attempting to reach an agreement on a claim through discussion, without resort to litigation." If the plaintiff (John) follows this route, he has 300 days form the date of the discriminatory incident to file a claim (p. 89).

* Step two: The EEOC serves a notice to the employer.

Within 10 days of the claim, the employer is notified in writing about the discrimination charges. At this time, the employer is also informed of the anti-retaliation provisions "which make it illegal to treat an employee adversely because the employee pursued his or her rights under Title VII" (p. 89).

* Step Three: The EEOC refers the opposing parties to mediation.

To filter out invalid claims and to save litigation costs, the EEOC recommends mediation between the two parties. Each party has 10 days to respond to the mediation referral; if both parties agree then mediation begins within 45 to 60 days depending on the method of mediation, whether it is handled externally or internally (p. 90).

* Step Four: The EEOC investigates the claim.

If mediation is rejected or unsuccessful, the EEOC will investigate the claim by interviewing the employer, employee, and any witnesses to determine if there is reasonable cause (p. 90).

* Step Five: Reasonable or no-reasonable cause findings.

If reasonable cause exists, the EEOC recommends conciliation. Similar to step one, the parties are given another chance to settle the dispute outside of court. "The majority of claims filed with the EEOC are adequately disposed of at this stage of the proceedings" (Bennett-Alexander, 2003, p. 90).

If the EEOC finds no reasonable cause exists (there is no reasonable basis for the illegal act of discrimination), the employee (plaintiff) is notified of the right-to-sue. The employee has 90 days to bring the charges to court for judicial review.

* Step Six: Taking the case to federal court.

Once the EEOC has completed its handing of the case and if the plaintiff proceeds by filing the charges with the federal



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